Our History

As the oldest synagogue in the Los Angeles area, Wilshire Boulevard Temple upholds a proud tradition of service to the Jewish community.

Founded in 1862 as Congregation B’nai B’rith, our Temple was originally located at Temple and Broadway downtown. In 1895, we moved to a larger Victorian structure at 9th and Hope.

In 1929, we dedicated our magnificent Temple on Wilshire Boulevard, anchored among other significant sacred buildings in the Wilshire Center area.

We founded our Wilshire Boulevard Temple Camps and Conference Center in Malibu in 1952 to enhance our resources for young people and adults alike.

To accommodate our congregation’s growth on the Westside, we opened the Audrey and Sydney Irmas Campus in West Los Angeles in 1998.

A Timeline of Wilshire Boulevard Temple

1853

Solomon Carvalho, an artist with John C. Fremont’s expedition, visits Los Angeles, encouraging local Jews to form a Hebrew Benevolent Society. In July, the Society incorporates; the following year, it receives land from the city to establish the first Jewish cemetery, located near present-day Dodger Stadium.

1862

Joseph Newmark, a lay rabbi, obtains a state charter and organizes Congregation B’nai B’rith, the first Jewish synagogue in Los Angeles.

1873

With 40 families, the congregation dedicates its first building, which the Los Angeles Star describes as “the most superior church edifice in Southern California.” Temple president Isaias W. Hellman is a civic leader who helped Harrison Gray Otis buy the Los Angeles Times and helped build the trolley cars that joined Henry Huntington’s Pacific Electric Line.

1888

With Temple membership now doubled, elements of Reform Judaism are introduced. A national economic depression coupled with the end of a real estate boom affects the congregation, which is in disarray. Nonetheless, construction begins in 1889 on a new building at Ninth & Hope on a lot purchased several years earlier.

1896

Congregation B’nai B'rith’s new Sanctuary is dedicated before a capacity crowd of Jews and Christians. The congregation adopts a Reform prayer book.

1899

Typifying the new American Reform movement, Rabbi Sigmund Hecht assumes leadership, bringing stability and strong growth to B’nai B’rith. Rabbi Hecht is instrumental in organizing Jewish federated giving. The congregation subsequently fosters the growth of several Jewish charitable agencies.

1901

Congregation president Kaspare Cohn donates 30 acres of land in East Los Angeles to replace the cemetery established nearly 50 years earlier. Over the next eight years, remains and stones are transferred from Chavez Ravine to the new Home of Peace Memorial Park. Rabbi Hecht organizes women’s and youth programs and affiliates the congregation with the Union of Hebrew Congregations.

1914

Rabbi Hecht hires recently ordained Rabbi Edgar F. Magnin to serve as his assistant. Rabbi Magnin joins Kaspare Hecht in expanding the congregation’s local interfaith outreach and civic engagement in both national and international issues.

1922

B’nai B’rith breaks ground for its third synagogue at the northeast corner of Hobart and Wilshire Boulevards.

1925

Rabbi Maxwell H. Dubin joins the clergy at the Temple to direct the Religious School and adult programs.

1929

An architectural masterpiece, the new Temple is dedicated. Its richly ornamented interior features black marble, gold inlay, fine mosaics, rare woods and Biblically-themed murals created by artist Hugo Ballin, who has been commissioned by Warner Bros. studio chief Jack Warner. The Temple’s immense Byzantine dome soon becomes a landmark in Wilshire Center and throughout Los Angeles.

1949

Rabbi Alfred Wolf joins the Temple.

1952

Under the leadership of Rabbi Wolf, the Temple develops Camp Hess Kramer in Malibu.

1969

Wilshire Boulevard Temple opens Gindling Hilltop Camp in Malibu.

1979

Rabbi Dubin dies, after 54 years at the Temple

1981

Wilshire Boulevard Temple joins the United States Register of Historic Places.

1982

Rabbi Harvey J. Fields comes to Wilshire Boulevard Temple.

1984

Rabbi Edgar F. Magnin dies, ending 69 years at Wilshire Boulevard Temple. Rabbi Wolf succeeds him.

1985

Rabbi Emeritus Wolf retires from the Temple to become founding director of the Skirball Institute on American Values of the American Jewish Committee. He is succeeded by Rabbi Fields.

1987

Rabbi Steven Z. Leder comes to Wilshire Boulevard Temple.

1992

Wilshire Boulevard Temple dedicates the Steve Breuer Conference Center in Malibu.

1995

Property for the Audrey and Sydney Irmas Campus purchased by Wilshire Boulevard Temple.

1998

Mann Family Early Childhood Center opens at Wilshire Boulevard Temple's Audrey and Sydney Irmas Campus.

1999

Brawerman Elementary School West opens at the Audrey and Sydney Irmas Campus.

2009

The Erika J. Glazer Early Childhood Center opens at the Temple Campus. The Rose Window and spicebox chandeliers in the Sanctuary are removed for restoration.

2011

Brawerman Elementary School East opens to full enrollment. Full renovation begins in the historic building, with the Magnin Sanctuary closed until the fall of 2013.

2013

The historic Temple Campus is renamed the Erika J. Glazer Family Campus of Wilshire Boulevard Temple. Read more here. Fully restored and renovated Magnin Sanctuary reopens for High Holy Days 2013, with the grand celebration of the official reopening on September 29, 2013.

Wilshire Boulevard Temple

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